Is easyJet still flying from Luton to Istanbul this summer?
Wednesday 29 January 2014
Q. I have been trying to book flights from Luton to Istanbul with easyJet for the summer but they have still not gone on sale. easyJet is offering flights to Istanbul only up to March. Is it feasible that it'll quietly axe such a seemingly prosperous business and tourist route for summer 2014? Dom Wood
A. Luton to Istanbul marked easyJet's first arrival into Asia in 2008 – the airport served is Sabiha Gokcen, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, rather than the main Ataturk airport on the European shore. The airline currently flies three times a week.
Evidently, though, the route is not making enough money for easyJet, compared with what it could earn with alternative deployments of planes and people. The services from Luton to Istanbul end along with the winter season at the end of March. (The same fate has befallen another easyJet route to the east, the link from Gatwick to Jordan's capital, Amman.)
The airline says: "We apologise for any inconvenience caused." Affected passengers who have already bought tickets between Luton and Istanbul have been contacted by customer services and offered a full refund, says easyJet.
So where does this leave your summer plans? Well, plenty of competition remains between the big cities at either end of Europe. From Heathrow to Ataturk airport, British Airways and Turkish Airlines compete. The latter also serves both Istanbul airports from Gatwick.
At Stansted, the big Turkish budget airline, Pegasus, has frequent flights to Sabiha Gokcen airport. And from May, another low-cost airline, Atlasjet, will start flying from Luton to Ataturk – which may well have figured in easyJet's decision to end services.
As with any new entrant to a route, Atlasjet must offer good fares to attract business. There is plenty of space on the Luton-Istanbul route at £148 return in May, for example, significantly less than BA or Turkish Airlines.
It's also worth noting that from 10 April, tourists will no longer be able to pay for their £10 visa on arrival. A Turkish e-visa must be bought in advance from www.evisa.gov.tr, for US$20 (£13.50). Travellers must also have at least six months' validity on their passport.
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